OUR FORGOTTEN FAMILIES: Politics holds no answers for region’s disadvantaged

By Charmayne Allison

WHEN it comes to the homelessness crisis in Echuca-Moama, there’s one point all politicians agree on – there’s no easy solution.

And as for offering emergency assistance to desperate locals like Tony and Melissa – the reality, according to our local members, is much more complicated.

So complicated no government member, opposition member or independent could do, or offer, anything that would in any way provide any kind of immediate relief — not just for Tony and Melissa but for whoever else slept in last night’s cold and rain.

“We can't offer crisis support. What we do is try to exert influence over the agencies to resolve matters quicker,” Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said.

“That’s achieved through letters and phone calls.”

Mr Walsh said locals regularly came into his office asking for support to find housing.

“This calendar year we've helped a number of people who have come in, particularly young pregnant mothers who did not have homes and we've worked very hard to get accommodation for them,” he said.

“It's tough going because there's not a list of vacant housing stock out there.”

Mr Walsh said the Victorian Government currently provides funding to local housing organisations like Njernda and Anglicare.

But he was not aware either of these organisations had recently sought additional state government support.

As for struggling locals like Tony and Melissa, Mr Walsh said there was often a backstory for why some people were unable to secure housing.

“You need to know where they've been with the agencies so far and what history they have if they've been in public housing before,” he said.

“If they've created problems that can be why they're now out of public housing.”

Across the river, Member for Murray Helen Dalton said she would advocate to NSW Minister for Housing Melinda Pavey for social housing and affordable housing in Moama.

“I'm yet to have that conversation,” she said.

“We only got back from the winter recess last week and this week has been hectic because of the abortion bill and water.

“But I will be raising my concerns to Melinda Pavey.

“And as I speak to different councils, I'll find out exactly what we need, I'll get what the needs are right through the electorate.”

Focusing federally, Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said he believed homelessness had grown throughout the electorate in the past four months.

But while the federal government assists with funding to improve housing affordability and availability, the money is administered through the state government.

“As I understand it, public housing and social housing are purely state-based,” he said.

“The Federal Government would be open to ways of assisting the various states with their policies surrounding homelessness.

“But it's certainly not the Federal Government's role to develop what's going to work in each of the respective states.”

Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley was travelling and unavailable for direct comment.

However her office said NSW will receive $2.27 billion from the Commonwealth over the next five years under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

$7.5 billion has been budgeted over five years to all states and territories through the new National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.

This includes an additional $620 million in specific funding for homelessness services, which must be matched by the state governments.

Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley was unable to be reached for comment as she was travelling.


Read more of Tony and Melissa's heartbreaking story of homelessness

Read more from local homelessness services

Read more from Moama Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive John Kerr

Read an opinion piece from Riverine Herald writer Charmayne Allison